SAN DIEGO (AP) — Now that Chargers tight end Antonio Gates has a wedding ring, the seven-time Pro Bowler has only one piece of jewelry on his wish list: A Super Bowl ring.
"Trying to be a Super Bowl champion, ultimately it sets my whole career off," Gates said Thursday after the team's first practice in training camp.
Part of the test for Gates this year will be a stubborn foot condition, plantar fasciitis, that cost him six games last year and troubled him during other games.
The Chargers haven't played since Jan. 2, but when asked Thursday if his right foot is 100 percent, Gates paused and said only, "It's better."
Gates said he won't know whether the foot is 100 percent until he runs and jumps at full speed, and that pain management will be crucial in the months ahead. He was an observer during the morning walkthrough practice Thursday.
"People think it's an injury, but it's a pain tolerance," Gates said. "One day you might feel like you can run around and jump around. Next day, it's sore."
Gates said the rest of his body is fine but he lamented that the NFL lockout prevented him from working with Chargers trainers the last 4 1/2 months.
"It put a damper on a lot of things," he said. "Our training staff is phenomenal. People say, 'Oh, he had the time off (his foot),' but when you're not in with the training staff that normally understands you and knows what it takes, it's difficult.
"I had to deal with guys that really didn't know me, didn't know what I was about, had to go and do their research, so it was difficult.
"You take the bitter with the sweet," Gates said. "You understand what's at stake with the league, but you've still got to do the things that keep you as healthy as possible."
Gates enters this season newly married, having exchanged vows with Sasha Dindayal in San Diego this month. Describing the ceremony, Gates used the word "fun" three times.
Another way of describing the wedding, Gates said, was that it was a retirement ceremony.
"All of my other jerseys are retired," he said. "My high school and college jerseys are retired, so I just put up my other jersey. My bachelor's jersey is up high; it's up with all of my high school and college jerseys.
"It was strange. My whole career, I always said I would be the type of guy that would probably wait until I'm done playing (to get married)," Gates said. But, he said, "There comes a time when you make a new chapter in your life."
Now that he is married, he sees similarities to football.
"The same values you take on the football field — togetherness, trust, believing in one another — is the same type of situation in a relationship," Gates said. "Although it's different people, the concepts are the same. You trust your wife. You're together. Everything you do is about us — we, not me-you. That's the concept of team."
During the 2010 season, Chargers coach Norv Turner singled out Gates for praise several times. Before one game, Turner read a newspaper article to the team about how Gates was playing through extreme pain in his right foot.
Gates had 65 catches in his 10 games despite limping between some plays. He scored 10 touchdowns and enters this season with 69 career TDs, 12th among active players.
A starter on five AFC West champions in San Diego, Gates also has 39 catches, one for a touchdown, in his eight postseason games.
The quest for a Super Bowl drives him, Gates said, suggesting that if he has to be more vocal with teammates this year, he will be.
"A Super Bowl would set everything you've worked for, being the best at this level," he said. "It doesn't get any bigger than that. We've got the guys that can do it. It's about us working every single play, every single day and just getting better."
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.